University of Cambridge > > aw534's list > JOINT PHYSICAL / INORGANIC LECTURE - “Can materials make a difference to our sustainable energy future?"

JOINT PHYSICAL / INORGANIC LECTURE - “Can materials make a difference to our sustainable energy future?"

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Energy is now one of the defining issues of this century. In particular, one must ask “how one can visualise – and assist with – the transition from a fossil-fuel-dominated energy economy, to a more sustainable, or renewable future energy scenario”.

In the Figure,2 I show the Human Development Index (HDI) plotted against per capita Energy Consumption , with energy expressed in units of kg equivalent of oil. The HDI index is a measure of the quality of life developed by the UN Development Program and is composed of contributions from life expectancy, adult literacy, gross domestic product, etc. The correlation between HDI and energy consumption is very powerful and sets the agenda for an ever-increasing demand for fossil fuels in our world. Of course, as our energy demand grows, so does the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. To avoid potentially catastrophic consequences of such climate changes, the concentration of greenhouse gases (primarily CO2 ) must be stabilised at a level that is ‘safe’ for both society and the environment. To hold global greenhouse gas emissions constant – never mind reduce them – while the world’s human development continues to grow is a daunting task, but one in which materials – defined in a broad sense – will play a pivotal role. In this lecture, I will provide an overview of our activities in the areas of Transparent Conducting Oxides, Hydrogen Storage Materials1, and Sustainable Organic Fuels (Turning CO2 into Fuel3.

I will attempt to illustrate a direct materials link to the atmospheric CO2 emissions saving ‘stabilisation wedge concept’, as developed by Soclow and Pacala4 and others. I hope that such a perspective will illustrate some of the major materials challenges for a sustainable energy future. Chemistry is pivotal in meeting these challenges but, most effectively, in close multidisciplinary research with our sister disciplines of Physics, Materials Science, Engineering and indeed the Socio and Economic Sciences!

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